• Jacksonville City Councilman accuses mayor of holding budget signature hostage to sway votes

    By: Jenna Bourne , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis is accusing Mayor Lenny Curry of not signing the budget in order to pressure city council members to vote in favor of the Kids Hope Alliance.

    The legislation, introduced at the mayor’s request, would reform and consolidate the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and Jax Journey into one.

    Thirteen council members are co-sponsoring the legislation.

    Dennis said some council members feel “bullied” by the mayor.

    “We’re playing politics with our children,” said Dennis, who has introduced competing legislation. “Now it’s political football. The budget is now being held over some of my colleagues’ heads. You know, ‘Vote for this Kids Hope Alliance or your project’s going to be taken out of the budget.’ And that’s wrong.”

    On Monday morning, City Council President Anna Brosche canceled a meeting about the legislation that was scheduled to take place in the afternoon.

    She says she wants the public to have a chance to comment.

    “I really don’t understand what the rush is,” said Brosche. “The public has had it for approximately 65-70 hours now. Our legislative process takes time for a reason, to allow not only council members but the public to weigh in.”

    Councilman John Crescimbeni sent an email on Monday afternoon calling for a meeting on the Kids Hope Alliance on Tuesday, going against Brosche’s request for two more weeks.

    Crescimbeni lost his campaign for the council presidency to Brosche this year.

    Dennis said there’s a culture on the council of not wanting to stand up to the mayor.

    “We have an obligation as the legislative body to be a check to the executive branch. And what you see is a potential rubber stamp. And it’s wrong,” said Dennis.

    The mayor turned down Action News Jax’s request for an interview.

    His spokesperson, Marsha Oliver, sent the following statement:

    “There are a number of budget uncertainties unrelated to KHA legislation. Some Council members have made statements that would have financial impacts on future budgets. For example, it has been proposed to find a dedicated funding source including creating a special taxing district. Also, support for excess pension payments has been presented and agreed to in publicly noticed meetings. It is fiscally responsible for the mayor to consider these impacts prior to signing the budget.  As always, the mayor respects the work of individual council members and looks forward to working with them.”

    Oliver also confirmed the mayor does not have a “short-list” of people who would serve on the Kids Hope Alliance’s seven-member board.

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